On Purim, How Can We Channel Our Inner Esther During Difficult Times?


In the ancient Achaemenid Empire, Jews faced annihilation. King Ahasuerus’ evil vizier Haman had convinced the king of the rightness of this policy.

To thwart the genocide, Mordecai, an influential Jewish man, positioned his niece, the beautiful Esther, to get the attention of Ahasuerus. Ahasuerus married Esther and made her queen.

It was only after she gained influence that Esther revealed herself as a Jew. The king had Haman hung on the gallows. The genocide was thwarted.

Jews today face war in Gaza and rising antisemitism. Local rabbis offered some answers on how we can channel our inner Esther.

Rabbi Binyomin Davis with his wife Gevura Davis (Courtesy of Rabbi Binyomin Davis)

Rabbi Binyomin Davis, Aish Chaim (Bala Cynwyd)

“We have a general mitzvah of giving during the year. But what’s fascinating about Purim is that anybody who puts out their hand, we give to them. We don’t ask questions. The reason for that is we came together as a Jewish people in prayer and repentance all the way back in the time of Esther. And so again we have to replicate being that one people. We do that by giving gifts to the poor and giving wherever is needed.”

Rabbi Isaac Leizerowski, Beth Midrash HaRav B’Nai Jacob (Northeast Philadelphia)

Rabbi Isaac Leizerowski
(Photo by Jarrad Saffren)

“The key with the Esther event was her unfailing trust and belief in the spiritual destiny of her people. That’s the way it is portrayed. Many laws in the Talmud are learned from the story of Esther. Her abiding faith in the destiny of the Jewish people and viewing it not as a circular event of the Jews are persecuted, we triumph, we succeed, we’re persecuted again, we triumph, we succeed. But Esther viewed Jewish destiny in a linear context. Everything was leading up to a prescribed end result.”

Rabbi Aaron Krauss, Beth El Synagogue (Margate, New Jersey)

“Deepen your Jewish identity. Don’t be afraid to be Jewish. Be able to respond to your challenges. Acquaint yourself with the details of what’s going on. You should be able to respond to people who are antisemitic with intelligent answers. Not allow antisemitism to make you want to hide your Jewishness.”

Rabbi Yonah Gross (Courtesy of Rabbi Yonah Gross)

Rabbi Yonah Gross, Congregation Beth Hamedrosh (Wynnewood)

“They didn’t wait. They didn’t say, ‘Oh, let’s get together. Let’s have meetings and discuss how we’ll avert this decree.’ Mordecai and Esther acted very quickly and said, ‘Before this gets out of hand, before it builds momentum toward destruction of the Jewish people, we’re going to step up as soon as possible to stop this decree from taking place.’”

Rabbi Howard Cove, Beiteinu (Philadelphia area)

“The way we respond in the spirit of Esther is to advocate for our own people. Contribute to Jewish organizations. Contribute to organizations that promote quality of life in Israel. If you are worried about the aggressiveness of the Israeli army, contribute to an organization in Israel that promotes inter-religious activity.”

Rabbi David Englander
(Photo by Studio K)

Rabbi David Englander, Congregation Beth El (Voorhees, New Jersey)

“Esther claiming her Jewish identity at a time of danger for her translates into all of us finding ways to claim our Jewish identity in ways that are constructive and meaningful. Today it certainly includes advocacy for Israel. It includes synagogue affiliation and support. It includes increasing kindness and compassion in our local neighborhoods and environments.”

Rabbi Hersh Loschak, Chabad at Rowan (Glassboro, New Jersey)

“Sometimes people might feel like, ‘Oh, there’s so much hate out there. I won’t take out my mezuzah. I won’t wear my Judaism proudly.’ The answer from Esther is we have got to stand up for what’s right and what we believe in. And wear our Judaism with pride even more openly than before.”

Rav Shai Cherry, Congregation Adath Jeshurun (Elkins Park)

“As American Jews, we’re equal citizens under the law — not subjects vulnerable to the king’s whims. The politics of Purim remind us of our weaknesses under tyranny and despotism. Protecting individual rights and freedoms is the political lesson I take from Esther.”

Rabbi Yosef Zarnighian with his wife Marian and their daughter
(Courtesy of Rabbi Yosef Zarnighian)

Rabbi Yosef Zarnighian, Congregation Mikveh Israel (Old City)

“This plot was not the first nor the last instance of evil that will face the Jewish people. The Jewish people are reported to have been ‘divided and dispersed’ among the Persian empire, making them easy targets to attack (Est. 3:8). In response to this reality, Queen Esther orders ‘for all the Jewish people to gather’ in prayer and fasting, in order for G-d’s mercy to grace her as she petitioned King Achashverosh to nullify Haman’s plot (Est. 4:16). We are indestructible when we are together and united as Jews.”

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